Sunday, March 19, 2017

An Insiders Guide to How Your Thoughts are Being Bought

(Disclosure:  I am not being compensated for this post, nor am I writing it to offend anyone - if you do not like what I have to say - click the back button and leave.)

A few weeks ago, three dozen or so friends of mine shared two different views to the recently released Disney Beauty and The Beast – I am not here to discuss the movie – that is for the movie critiques.
Blogger in Training

The controversy around the release made my heart sink – I so hated to watch my friends and family disagree over a movie – they had not even seen yet!  Then I realized, they were not disagreeing over the movie – they were disagreeing over what the “media” had told them about the movie.  The controversy was completely media induced!

First I want to define “media” – you see when I was growing up media consisted of talk radio shows, the local news channels, the weekly newspapers, and a few magazines.  Today “media” is much more – anyone can be media – and everyone has an opinion!

Ten years ago, I started a sad little blog, not the one you are reading – as I have revamped it, changed the name, and it has grown to so much more, but ten years ago, I entered the world of media – without realizing it.   Me a then stay at home mom – who had limited education in politics, world views, or really anything else – became media.

Ten years forward, bloggers have become one of the main sources of media!  Bloggers share opinions mixed with facts on everything from religion, politics, travel, parenting, to so much more – many of these bloggers are not experts, they are just individuals with a passion and a computer.

Now I am not here to “knock” bloggers or online media as I am one, but this latest Beauty and the Beast ordeal, last year’s transgender bathroom issue, the “Cash Me Outside Girl”, and few other news breaking ordeals has made me realize that many folks do not understand how “blogging” and modern day media works.

Media Makes Money Off Your Curiosity

I am guilty, you are guilty, and probably half the United States is guilty of this – we see a catchy headline we click the link – and money goes in someone’s pocket.

Modern day media is all about the clicks, views, followers, or listeners – nothing about the truth – yes, I said truth.  Remember when I said “Me a then stay at home mom – who had limited education in politics, world views, or really anything else – became media” – all I had to have was an opinion and get people to click on my articles.

How do you get people to click the link?  You catch their attention!

How do you catch their attention?  You say something different than everyone else – sometimes outlandish – and many times they will say something not true!

I click – how does that make someone else money? 

No one truly writes for free – I mean free.   I think my first 5 blog post ever were free, after that I quickly learned how to turn my thoughts to money or at least goods.

Media producers make money a few different ways – they are supposed to disclose that they work for compensation, but often that is wrote so tiny font readers completely miss it.

No matter what type of media you are in it is all about how big your audience is – period, nothing else matters.  The first thing a PR firm will ask your for is - your numbers!

Here I am going to break down various ways media makes money. 

The Paid Writer – this would be your traditional journalist, news anchor, talk show writer, and even now online media writers.  They are paid to write – often salaried, sometimes it is by the piece.  Their goal is to get the most viewers, if their segments, articles, or broadcast are not drawing in numbers they are not doing their job and can quickly be replaced.

Pay per click/view – This kind of pay is based off how many people see your post/segment/article/ or other form of media – you are paid by the click; therefore, you really must draw people to your piece. These are the articles that typically have the most outlandish titles.

Affiliate Links – This type of compensation is the hardest to spot – while they are still supposed to disclose it, even if it is disclosed many do not notice or even understand what that means.  This is when there are hyperlinks within the text that take you to outside sources.  Sometimes the outside sources require a purchase – most often they do not, just a click.

Goods for Review – This is one of the most common ways bloggers and online media sources are compensated – I will admit many times I was or am compensated in this manner.  In the beginning companies wanted your honest opinion and wanted you to “write a reliable review” as you often had the trust of your community and had become a trusted friend to the community.  Today, that is not always true – I have received emails from PR firms that state “if you like this write a review please”.  Yeah okay, this is probably why I do not work as much as I use to!  It is not always easy to be “completely honest” when you just want readers and free products!  Now this is not every blogger, I have many reliable blogging friends, but you should read between the lines and see if you can really trust them.

Sponsored Post – another very popular way online media makes money – pay per post.   Again, these are to be disclosed, but you must know what the hashtag or marking means.  There are companies designed to hire online media to produce pieces to promote events, products, TV Shows, politicians (yes politicians), and many other things.  If the online media person is honest – they only write and support topics or products, they believe in – but when you are working for pennies and desperate to make the dollar it could push you to support about anything.

AdSense or Ads – This form of sponsorship the online media has very little control of and often earns pennies for – like I earned $90 for the entire year of 2016 from my AdSense account.  You have to be savvy or more dedicated to making money than me – but this is also based off clicks.   The ads are placed to drive people to other sites – and some online media make really good money this way. These are also the easiest sponsorship to spot - as you see the ad right there on your screen!

This is just a few of the ways media makes money, as there are many other ways, but as you see there is one thing in common – it is all about clicks, viewers, and followers.

How to know the media person is being paid. 

Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure – you have probably seen my leads sentence that says “I was compensated for this post, but my thoughts and opinions cannot be bought” – I try to draw attention to that comment, it is usually the first sentence of paid post for me, centered in the middle of the page, and often italicized.   I find it a compliment that people value my writing enough to pay me! However, little do many know this is a requirement – if you are being paid or making money off your online work it is a REQUIREMENT - The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requires disclosures, however, they have very few requirements.  You can learn more about disclosures here.  

To spot a disclosure in an article, look at the top of the post – typically in size 4 or 6 fonts there will be a brief statement – often they key word that then links to another site that list a full disclosure – of how they are compensated, maybe not how they are specifically compensated for that post, but a list of how they may have been compensated in one of the thousand plus post they have produced.  Some online media has went to the image disclosure - these are often the most reliable sources, they are very honest and upfront that they are being sponsored.

Spot a disclosure on a social media post – look for hashtags.  They are often shortened, so the message can be longer!  They should say #sponsored #spnsrd #paid #compensated #hosted – or something to that nature.  I have found that online media is usually honest about being hosted or sponsored on Instagram and Twitter – possibly because those tags are always trending.

A disclosure in a video – now some individuals disclose “I am being paid by” – however, many times video media is harder to catch who is paying who.  Sometimes the sponsor may be the t-shirt company and the media person is talking about parenting – the viewer sees the shirt, but listens to the words.  It is complex to say the least.

Everyone is getting paid – who do I trust?   

You could try the test method – see if what they are telling is so fabulous, really is.

Check their disclosure – is their disclosure easy to read -  or does it sound kind of mysterious.  Most legit online media will include an image disclosure within the first few sentences – kudos to them for being easy and honest with readers.  Others will draw your attention to the disclosure - not all legit are perfect at disclosing - as there is no real education behind online media, it is a learn as you go.

Know the person – most of my friends know I am authentic, as they know me and have watched my family grow up.  I value my readers time and respect that they trust me – may not always agree with me, but they respect me.  Many of the online media sources I read and trust, is because I KNOW them - over the years I have followed them, read them, and learned to trust them.

I am not a perfect blogger or person for that fact, but in this world I feel my friends, family, and readers deserve to know the truth about online media and how it works.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Watching My Husband Become a Dad.....

A man becomes a dad when.....?

My husband did not watch Lesse or D be born, in fact at the time of their birth I would have never dreamed or thought that I would meet my husband.  Trey did not come into their lives until they much past the dirty diapers, spit ups, and sleepless nights - okay maybe not sleepless nights we do have a teenager!

Over the past year +, I have had the great pleasure of watching my husband go from just being Trey to being a Dad.  From the outside looking in - it looked like an immediate transformation, but from the inside looking out - it was a slow beautiful process (unlike childbirth).

On our very first "family date" you know where Trey got to experience dating a mom with 2 crazy kids and going out to dinner with us - my well spoken, very protective, and sometimes jealous son pipes up and says "Trey, my mom farts like an elephant" - speechless and a little amused Trey responded "well alright then"  - we both knew this was an attempt to scare Trey off.

When the scare tactic didn't work - the Man of the House tactic moved in.  D was sure to tell Trey that "I love my mom more than you ever will" - true stuff, I am D's number one lady, but I am Trey's also in a different way.

As our engagement progressed, we had to make the big decision of who was going to give me away at our wedding.  D piped up again and said "You can marry my Mom, but I am not giving her away" - okay, Mom stayed in the family and D walked me down the isle.  

Blending our family came with lots of fears, worry, anxiety, and maybe some anger! 

Then on our wedding day (nearly a year ago) this happened:

and this: 

Our Family Blended! 

However, the work had only begin.  

Trey was a new dad - only the kids were not babies!  He was more like a kindergartner in high-school, trying to speed learn algebra - and the algebra always changing!  

First there was softball, he fretted she may dehydrate, packed extra water, ran back forth between games, and got extremely mad when the ump made a bad call. 

Then there was school shopping, they had to have all the cool stuff, you know they couldn't start school (for the 4th & 8th time) with just average colored folders - their shoes had to be good shoes, comfortable shoes, and the shorts - they must not be too short!   

Later came basketball, an after school babysitter, and oh no D needs extra reading help.  In the middle of this, we decided to move - so we faced nightmares, new bus route, and Mom forgot to pay the school lunch bill!  Parenting is Tough and ever changing!  

In the middle of this, Trey slowly formed bonds...

It started gradually with prayer time and Bible study with D before bed.  This seemed like no big deal, but later I realized, without those few minutes of the day - D does not sleep well.  They would read a little verse, talk a little about God, and I often would hear some giggles coming from the room. 

Later became "car talk" with Lesse - while Trey was shuffling between basketball, volleyball, or softball they would talk - about Boys, God, Girl Drama, Mom, D, and Chores - only later did I discover that she preferred to tell him stuff first, so he could gently break the news to me - smart girl maybe. 

 "first time father look"  

This past year, I have seen that "first time father look" on my husbands face - more than once actually!  

There was the first time Lesse made a goal at her basketball game - he nearly jumped out of the stands cheering for her!  

The first time D helped him mow the yard with him - both beaming with excitement as they turned donuts in the yard!  

The day that Lesse was baptized, followed shortly later by D - those days may have been better than the day they were born - and there was pride, joy, hope, and love glowing in his face. 

Then there was the bad first; the first heartbreaks, disappointments, the time the dog got loose and D was worried she had left forever - when she was only down the street, the first time Lesse got scared by a storm and woke him up 3 times in one night - on a work night!  

Step Dads are Dads 

Last week we were driving home from church and both kids were riding with me - my car was filled with chatter - and Lesse said "mom can you believe that my friend didn't know Trey was not my real dad"....... I was speechless............She went on to say "yeah, I told her that I have 2 dads, I love them both"  there was silence in the car as I wiped a tear.  

Later that day while D was playing with his friend and they were making big plans, I reminded D that he would be at his Dad's the next week - D's friend said "I thought Trey was D's dad"  I started to explain and D interrupted with "I have 2 dads and its pretty cool" then they ran off to play.  

Blending takes Time

As I look back over the past year, I can compare it to the year my daughter was born, only I am a few years older.  Blended families are a lot like natural families - it takes time, work, messed up schedules, lots of grace, an endless pot of coffee, and many hours of prayer.  

The new parent to the relationship is much like a new mom or dad - a new baby does not come with a handbook, nor does a half grown child.  You have your sleepless nights, the days you want to cry, the days that you are sure you are failing, followed by that big hug and an I love you!  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wearing the Conviction Not Being Able to Have a Baby

This is my personal story, so if you think that I am going to offend you, please click off my post and move along.  

Eight years ago, the decision was made that I would never be able to have a baby again - actually the words the doctor spoke was "if you get pregnant it would be a threat to your life...."

Eight years ago, that was no big deal - I was on a different path and never dreamed that path would make a U-turn, followed by are hard right, and a short left.

Photo by:  Elizabeth Rae Photography 
In the past two years, the talk of having a baby has come up about 40 bazillion million times - everyone knows I am still young enough to be a Mommy, they know Trey does not have any biological children, and now we are newlyweds. 

At first I, would avoid the question, then I would dodge it with answers like "there is so many babies without homes, maybe we will adopt"...knowing I barely have time to finish my college homework let alone attend foster parent classes, and then I would say "oh I don't really like children" and casually glance down at my two beautiful kids that I adore.

No matter how many times I would feed this line, someone would ask again, I almost became immune to it until a few people started making it about the Bible.   I was sitting quietly reading as I overheard two women whisper how it was "Biblical" for a woman to give her husband a child.  My heart sank, I want nothing more than to give my husband a child, but I cannot. 

Later that week someone quoted  these scriptures to me:

"For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing"

I sat there completely crushed, mortified, embarrassed, and confused - my world was rocked - everything that I had learned, believed in, and lived for was shattered - all because I could not give my husband a baby.

The following night I sat on the edge of my bed as my husband acted silly trying to get my attention - he eventually gave up and asked "what gives, why the sad face"

I attempted to dodge the question - I am really good at dodging questions - and then I asked "Do you continue to invest in something that you do not believe in anymore" - he had that priceless stunned look and said "um...what are we giving up"  I replied "Oh nothing, just having a hard time paying our tithes today" - except it was Tuesday and I don't pay our tithes on Tuesday - he didn't buy it, so I resorted to suddenly having to use the restroom - fail again.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thee Abbey Kitchen - Arcadia Academy

We finally made it to eat at The Abbey Kitchen - Arcadia Academy.  
The kids had ate there months ago, but it just never worked out for us adults.  

This year I started a new tradition, once a month, we would travel, so in January it was hiking and potato soup from The Abbey - a worthwhile trip.  

The beautiful architecture 

the yummy potato soup 

the darling kitchen 

and the mouthwatering ice cream 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Thorncrown Chapel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas

I had always heard there was a glass chapel hidden away in the woods in Arkansas – then last spring that “rumor” was proven true to me. 

Down a winding back road near Eureka Springs, Arkansas – all roads near Eureka Springs tend to be curvy – sets the majestic Thorncrown Chapel.  

I have never seen such a thing – expect perhaps in my dreams or a fairy-tale.  The chapel is beautiful, surrounded by the fresh green leaves, and the wondering of wild animals.
I am hesitant to attend church there – as I think I would be caught say “squirrel”.  

Images of the Thorncrown Chapel  - Eureka Springs, Arkansas 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Winter Storm Jupiter - January 13, 2017 - Bollinger County Missouri

(Disclosure:  The 

Panasonic LUMIX ZS60 was gifted to me by Panasonic, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own - I cannot be bought) 

Photos from Winter Storm Jupiter in Bollinger County Missouri - these photos were all shot with my 

Panasonic LUMIX ZS60 - which I adore.  

Why you ask, duh, the zoom capability kept me safe on the slick ice!   

Sunday, January 1, 2017

But I Just Want to "Dab" and I do not know why!

Today on Facebook, I shared a pretty controversial topic - Dabbing!  You know that cute little dance we have seen ages 8 months to 90 years old doing?  It is hip, it is cool, I mean Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton unveiled it - so it has to be "cool".....RIGHT?

So my husband and I are the strict parents - the ones that months ago said I really do not think "dabbing" is a good idea.  Trey is obsessed with listening to talk shows - and had heard mention that dabbing was a drug reference.  Sigh!  It is just a dance!  Or so our 13 year old has spent at least 6 months trying to convince us.

Okay maybe it is just a dance, but the word "dabbing" in the Urban Dictionary (urban - because that is where all the hip words are) is defined as:

"To press a piece of cannabis extract known as Butane Hash Oil against a heated surface of an oil rig pipe and inhale the smoke. These extracts have up to 90% THC levels. It is the newest growing trend for cannabis connoisseurs and Colorado currently has the largest following to date.
Hey man, I got some dabs. Can I borrow your torch? 
He's dabbing some BHO."   by SlabsofDabs 
You Google the word "dabbing" and click on images - you will see first a few photos of people dancing - then you will see nothing better than some good ol' fashion drug paraphernalia .  

There has been some response to my post - "it is just a dance" "we want to look cool" my own teen daughter stomped her feet and said "but mom my friends are doing it" - okay whatever.  

I am a tad passionate about this - NOT necessarily "dabbing"  - I am sure the Macarena had a hidden message as well, but I am MORE passionate about.....People knowing the signs they are throwing!  

For a good portion of my adult life, I have been around, worked with, or avoided people that would straight up hurt you for throwing the wrong sign or dropping the wrong phrase.  In this world, you have to know what you are saying - not just what is "cool" at the moment.  

A few weeks ago a young man that I see regularly walked by with his pants sagging a bit (showing his undies) - I first laughed, I second started to yell "pull up your pants" and then I remember he probably does not know where "sagging pants" originated....again from the Urban Dictionary, but true - "sagging" means: 

"wearing ones pants around the hips so that they sag down and bunch up around the ankles. Originally, this was a prison thing that signified that you were another prisoner's property.  Punks were forced to wear their pants this way so it would be easier for their masters to pull their pants down and rape them. Somehow this became a 1990's fashion trend. I learned this from watching a TV special on prison life. The inmate who related the story was an elderly black gentleman who had been sentenced to life in prison and had been there for over fifty years. He marveled how such a mark of shame became a fashion statement.  by Spanky McSpunk 

Again "sagging" is another fad, fashion, or oh so cool  - or it could mean you are someones property. 

In case you are wondering - you will learn this term and meaning in Criminal Justice 101 - where you can also learn a lot about where many modern day trends begin.  

So parents, from one parent to another parent  - I am not begging you to make the "dabbing" stop. That would be impossible - and it will fade away much like Disco did, but I am asking to become aware of what your kids are learning and where they are learning.   

That new hand gesture they are throwing - ask them where they learned it, that new phrase they just quoted - Google it and find out what the "hip term" means......In this world, in this age - it could save your child's life.